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Blocked from Participating, Environmental Groups Walk Out Of Warsaw COP19 Climate Change Talks

LEADING global environmental and civil society groups dramatically walked out of the United Nations COP19 climate change talks in Warsaw in an unprecedented move in UNFCCC conference history.

The talks in Warsaw have been dogged by uncertainty and a lack of progress, with campaign groups complaining daily of blocking tactics and buck-passing by many governments.

Groups including Greenpeace International, WWF, Oxfam International, ActionAid International, Friends of the Earth Europe and the International Trade Union Confederation joined the walkout.

Losing patience with the Warsaw talks, the groups accused governments of putting the interests of the “dirty energy lobby” first and of failing to address a global “climate crisis”.

In a statement, the groups said: “enough is enough” but some stressed they were not walking away from the UNFCCC process entirely, promising to return for the talks in Lima, Peru, in 2014.

The statement read:

The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing. In fact, the actions of many rich countries here in Warsaw are directly undermining the UNFCCC itself, which is an important multilateral process that must succeed if we are to fix the global climate crisis.

The groups were preparing to speak to media and delegates inside Poland’s National Stadium before collectively walking out, handing in their official UNFCC badges.

Winnie Byanyima, Executive Director of Oxfam International, said:

Oxfam is walking out of these talks because governments need to know enough is enough. People around the globe have a right to know about the desperate state of these negotiations.

The stakes are too high to allow governments to make a mockery of these talks. Climate change means real and harmful impacts on people right around the globe. “It means people losing their lives, homes and livelihoods in floods and typhoons. It means people going hungry because crops have failed and food prices have sky rocketed. This is happening today - without action there will be worse to come tomorrow.

Government’s primary responsibility is the security of their people. They are failing in this responsibility. They must draw a line under the Warsaw talks and come back in 2014 ready for meaningful discussions on how they will deliver their share of the emissions reductions which scientists say are needed and their share of the money needed to help the poorest and most vulnerable countries adapt.

We must demand action together - without this pressure our governments will simply not deliver what is needed.

Samantha Smith, leader of WWF's global climate and energy initiative, said: "We have been forced to take this action because of the failure of governments to take these talks seriously."

We are not walking away from the UN process on climate change, just this conference in Warsaw, where the interests of the most polluting industries have been set above the needs of global citizens.

Talks like these amount to nothing if countries refuse to come to them and negotiate in good faith or worse, try to drag the process backwards. There comes a point where the only option is to say enough is enough and to leave. With the science clearer than ever on the risk posed by dangerous climate change, heads of state need to step in and show leadership and drive this process forward.


Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace, addressing the media about the walkout. Photo credit: Brendan DeMelle, DeSmogBlog


350.org co-founder Jamie Henn is interviewed by Democracy Now on the walkout. Photo credit: Brendan DeMelle, DeSmogBlog


Photo credit: Brendan DeMelle, DeSmogBlog

Below is the statement from environment and civil society groups in full:

Enough is enough

We have said we stand in solidarity with the millions impacted by Typhoon Haiyan, and with all climate impacted people. Our solidarity compels us to tell the truth about COP 19 – the Warsaw Climate Conference. The Warsaw Climate Conference, which should have been an important step in the just transition to a sustainable future, is on track to deliver virtually nothing. In fact, the actions of many rich countries here in Warsaw are directly undermining the UNFCCC itself, which is an important multilateral process that must succeed if we are to fix the global climate crisis.

The Warsaw Conference has put the interests of dirty energy industries over that of global citizens - with a “Coal & Climate Summit” being held in conjunction; corporate sponsorship from big polluters plastered all over the venue; and a Presidency (Poland) that is beholden to the coal and fracking industry. When Japan announced that it was following Canada and backtracking on emission cut commitments previously made, and Australia gave multiple signals that it was utterly unwilling to take the UN climate process seriously, the integrity of the talks was further jeopardized.

This week saw a “finance ministerial” with almost no actual finance, and loss and damage talks that have stalled because rich countries refuse to engage on the substance of an international mechanism. Warsaw has not seen any increase in emission reductions nor increased support for adaptation before 2020 – on these things it has actually taken us backward. And a clear pathway to a comprehensive and fair agreement in Paris 2015 is missing. We as civil society are ready to engage with ministers and delegations who actually come to negotiate in good faith. But at the Warsaw Conference, rich country governments have come with nothing to offer. Many developing country governments are also struggling and failing to stand up for the needs and rights of their people.

It is clear that if countries continue acting in this way, the next two days of negotiations will not deliver the climate action the world so desperately needs.

Therefore, organizations and movements representing people from every corner of the Earth have decided that the best use of our time is to voluntarily withdraw from the Warsaw climate talks. Instead, we are now focusing on mobilizing people to push our governments to take leadership for serious climate action.

We will work to transform our food and energy systems at a national and global level and rebuild a broken economic system to create a sustainable and low-carbon economy with decent jobs and livelihoods for all. And we will put pressure on everyone to do more to realize this vision.

Coming out of the Warsaw Climate Conference, it is clear that without such pressure, our governments cannot be trusted to do what the world needs. We will return with the voice of the people in Lima to hold our governments accountable to the vision of 

 
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